Italy Culture Ministry Mulling Takeover of State Broadcaster RAI (Report)

8:32 AM PST 12/05/2013 by Eric J. Lyman

Minister of Culture Massimo Bray said RAI could be "an important" part of the ministry's backing of public service.

ROME -- Struggling Italian state broadcaster RAI could be run under the auspices of Italy's Ministry of Culture, according to an idea floated Thursday from Minister Massimo Bray.

Bray, speaking on RAI's channel 5, said that public service should be a bigger part of his ministry's mission, and that RAI could be better run by the ministry than as an autonomous broadcaster.

"I'd like for RAI to be an important part of the Ministry of Culture … I am convinced of it and I will plan to talk about it with Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni," Bray said, referring to Italy's Minister of Economy, which would have to sign off on such a deal.

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RAI is currently an autonomous state-controlled entity, supported by an annual fee paid by television owners, government subsidies, and advertising revenue.

RAI has been losing money -- it reportedly lost $250 million last year -- but is in the midst of reforms that RAI director general Luigi Gubitosi said will lead it to profitability by the end of next year.

RAI had no immediate response to Bray's remarks, but employees from the historic broadcaster have resisted any plans to cut back or change the company too much.

Though a large part of RAI's coverage is related to cultural issues, the broadcaster is also a major news organization.

RAI is one of three big players in the Italian television sector, along with Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset and Sky-Italia, a unit of Rupert Murdoch's Twenty-First Century Fox.

RAI, which is one of the oldest broadcast companies in the world, started operations in 1924 as URI, a radio broadcaster.

Twitter: @EricJLyman

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